What Type of Leader Builds the Best Corporate Culture?

Leadership Organizational Culture

I recently attended Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Gala in Toronto. Developed by Waterstone Human Capital 12 years ago, the event celebrates and recognizes those organizations that have seen exceptional results by focusing on building great corporate cultures.

Part of the Gala included an invitation-only CEO Summit where roughly 100 CEOs from across Canada discussed the creation of high-performing cultures and shared their experiences with the group. Among the CEOs in attendance were Darren Entwistle of Telus, John Nicola of Nicola Wealth Management, David Ossip of Ceridian and Sean O’Brien of Reliance Home Comfort along with many others. These leaders are smart and driven and I felt very fortunate to be in the same room.

During the round tables, we were all discussing the benefits of great cultures. Among the many positives that came out were high staff retention, better customer experience, stronger recruitment results, higher investor confidence and proof-of-bottom-line results. There is no doubt that a focus on building an aligned, disciplined, fun and engaging work environment has its benefits.

Now, take a moment to think about the programs and actions that lead to these outcomes:

  • Listening and gaining feedback from your teams;
  • Creating and communicating a purpose statement with meaningful core values;
  • Planning social and fun activities that foster better communication and trust;
  • Engaging employees in charitable activities that encourage them to give back;
  • Implementing generous HR reward and compensation programs that reinforce the right behaviours.

There’s a long list of other activities that could be included such as nap rooms, free lunches, on-site childcare, foosball tournaments, open concept and inspiring work environments, etc.

We’d all agree these are good activities that employees would find enjoyable while encouraging a more meaningful work experience. But what if you found out that these activities did not produce results? That there was no correlation between them and business performance? How many leaders would still invest the time, energy and money because it was better for their team? How many boards would support a strategy that had neutral results but was the right thing to do?

I believe there are two camps of leaders when it comes to their motives for building a great corporate culture. One camp of leaders builds a great culture because they love the performance that it brings and they feel good because it’s also good for their people. The other camp builds a great culture because they love their people first and are happy that performance occurs because of it. Both are good outcomes for team members, but which leader would you be loyal to? Which motivation would foster the best results over time?

I believe that true and lasting culture is sustained through leaders that care deeply about their people and are committed to the customers they serve. These leaders then implement better internal programs for their teams and inspire stronger innovation for their customers.

The question is what type of leader will you strive to be?